Cheers to Jesse Ryder, jeers to the backstory

On the day the news broke that Jesse Ryder was in a coma after being beaten up by some moronic thugs, I headed straight to online news sites to see what had happened. Initially there were just a few paragraphs up, as you might expect, while the writers waited for more info. Within 30 minutes there were a couple more lines of the actual “news” and then I saw that at least three online stories had added to the story with what I’d call “holding filler” were I doing the job myself.

But the filler they used infuriated me. At one stage more than half of each article was about Jesse Ryder’s drinking past. What? Had he beaten himself up? At that point, why was it even mentioned? The guy was lying in a coma in hospital – no one knew if he would live or die – and they were filling us in on his well-documented battle with alcohol.

I read between the lines for clues that he had started the fight, thrown the first punch, whatever, any justification for the backstory.  There were none. Even at that point it seemed the newsrooms knew it was unprovoked. And it was life and death serious. So was it necessary to mention his past in such a way as though it had some kind of relevance to the situation he now found himself in – in an induced coma in intensive care in Christchurch hospital?

It was no better on the TV news later in the evening. Again they brought up all his past as though it was in some way relevant.

Did they bring up the work he did with Billy Graham’s troubled youth? Did they talk about the young boy with cancer who he’s been a driving force with fundraising for? The kids he’s helped in cricket? No. Yes that stuff is coming out now, but it wasn’t used then.

The interesting thing about the assault on Jesse is that more than likely he could have “dropped” those attackers. He’s a big man, strong and fast on his feet. But because of his public profile and “checkered past” he didn’t. If he had, imagine the outcry! I don’t mind admitting there’s a part of me that wishes he’d had some kind of minder who could have done the job for him.

It also made me think about learning experiences and second chances. Our kids do things that are wrong – we hope they learn from them and don’t repeat them. It seems Jesse has been moving in the right direction with his life, but still that isn’t good enough.

When told about the attack initially, my teenage son said “I hope he wasn’t drinking”. Well yes, we all hope that but it’s not at all relevant to this situation unless it was Jesse himself who committed the assault.

I would hope that at the end of the cricket season – which it was – the Firebirds and Jesse would be able to go to a restaurant, have a meal and a drink, and not have some cretins confront and then attack one of them. That Jesse might have had a beer is neither here nor there. None of us knows where he is with that. It’s not the story.

But I do know if I was attacked to within an inch of my life on the street, people wouldn’t bring up any of the bad things I’ve done in the past to fill out their copy. I’m not famous. But are we so immune to the horror of what happened that we don’t think that’s enough of a story in itself?

As I write this, Jesse Ryder has just awoken from his induced coma and is talking. Apparently he doesn’t remember the attack. But I hope he does remember the people who backed his recovery 100 per cent as a person – with all the frailties humanity is renowned for – because none of us is perfect. I’m pretty sure perfection isn’t even required to be a human, not even if you are a brilliant cricketer. And just because you have a personality flaw or two – um, who doesn’t – doesn’t mean you deserve a kick in the head and a violent pummelling.

“At one stage more than half of each article was about Jesse Ryder’s drinking past. What? Had he beaten himself up?”

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Pic by Photosport.

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